After three-and-a-half impressive seasons at the back for Borussia Monchengladbach, versatile defender Dante has in 2012 taken the biggest step of his career so far by signing for German giants Bayern Munich. A firm fans’ favourite at ‘Gladbach, the Brazilian remains confident of competing for a starting berth despite the plethora of star names already at Bayern.
“When they signed me, they said they were looking for someone experienced to bolster their defence,” said the 28-year-old, who is also hoping to continue a recent tradition of Brazilian players proving successes at the Munich powerhouses.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, the imposing defender looks back on his ups and downs for ‘Gladbach against Bayern this season, as well as revealing how he will tackle future duels with his now former club.
FIFA.com: Bayern have a long tradition of Brazilian stars, such as Elber, Paulo Sergio, Lucio and Ze Roberto. Have you been able to speak to any of them? How proud are you to be joining this club?
Dante: No, I’ve not been able to speak to them, but there’s no doubt they made history at Bayern and I hope I’m able to do the same. Once Bayern showed an interest in me I didn’t hesitate: I know that they’re one of the best teams in the world. I’m very proud to be part of a team that’s always competing for titles, has great players and a great fan-base.
Competition for places in the Bayern rearguard is going to be fierce. What role do you think you’ll be able to play in their backline?
Every big club has a large squad. That’s the only way they can compete across three fronts every year. Everybody will get opportunities to play, but I’m going to train hard during the holidays so that, once I arrive at Bayern in July, I’m in peak condition and ready for the challenge ahead.
Having been a key player and fans' favourite at Borussia Monchengladbach, you will now find yourself surrounded by a host of established international stars at Bayern. How will you deal with that?
It’s a very good thing and a great challenge in my career. And I imagine that, if I can play well and get games for Bayern, it’ll also earn me a chance with A Seleção. When Bayern signed me, they said they were looking for someone experienced to bolster their defence. I’m confident and I’m sure I’ll be in the running for a starting place.
Bayern and ‘Gladbach had a very intense rivalry during the 1970s, a measure of which has reared its head again this season. Does that make this transfer even more special?
We’ve had a great season. I don’t think anyone thought that we were going to play this well but we, the players, always knew what we were capable of. Back in 2010/11 we went through a difficult spell but we still managed to pull clear of relegation by playing great football. [This season] we just picked up where we left off and that’s what happened: we had a great campaign and beat Bayern twice. It’s brilliant that the team really grew and we could revive some of Borussia’s glory days. I hope that they can keep it going, but now I’m on Bayern’s side and I’m not going to do them [‘Gladbach] any favours (laughs).
You missed a spot-kick in the shoot-out against Bayern in the semi-finals of the German Cup, so do you think there’ll be some banter about that from the fans or players once you get to Munich?
I was very confident about taking that kick. I was nice and relaxed so, when I hit the ball and it flew over, I couldn’t believe it. Unfortunately, it really happened and left me feeling very sad. We played a great game and deserved to have won but that’s football: the team that plays best doesn’t always win. I don’t think anybody will be cracking jokes about it, mainly because I wasn’t the only one who missed a penalty in that game and [Manuel] Neuer is a great goalkeeper. Look at what he did against Real Madrid [in the UEFA Champions League semi-final shoot-out]. I’m lucky that we’re going to be on the same side from now on.
Despite that cup defeat, there’s no denying that ‘Gladbach enjoyed a successful season. Does saying goodbye to the club after a campaign like this give you a sense of ‘mission accomplished’?
We definitely did have a great season. It was really good to be part of the team’s success after we’d suffered so much the previous year. However, I wasn’t able to win any silverware with Borussia so it wasn’t ‘mission accomplished’. But I’m very happy about having helped the team in the best way I could, by always giving my all in training and matches and getting the club back to where it should always be: among Germany’s leading sides.
What’s it going to feel like to watch your new club in the Champions League final without being able to take part? Do you plan to be in Munich to watch the game?
I want Bayern to win the title, of course! I’m going to be in Salvador [Brazil] on holiday, but I’ll watch the game with my family. It’s going to be a great final and I hope my future team-mates can put in a big performance and come away with the trophy.
If that turns out to be the case, Bayern will have earned a place at the FIFA Club World Cup later this year. Would that tournament have a special significance for you?
I hope that Bayern win so I get the chance to compete for that title which, for us Brazilians, is very special. Who knows, we might end up taking on a Brazilian team? It’d be a great experience and I’ll definitely want to help the club try and win such an important trophy.